Sunday, 18 January 2009

Recent Books

I've been a bit negligent about book reviews recently; apologies, I have been active in doing other things, not just sitting around doing nothing. Hmm, well, I have done a little bit of that, but I guess that most of my writing in the last few weeks has been to do with fiction, or writing programs for the Project Euler stuff.

Time for a quick catch up then!

Wrong About Japan by Peter Carey
Interesting book in the travel writing section; quite short, only took me two sittings to read it. Was interesting and made me nostalgic for my time in Japan, but also seemed like a kind of weird story. The title makes a lot of sense, in that every one of the author's preconceptions were wrong when he finally went to Japan with his son. I could never quite figure out what the purpose of it all had been (perhaps it was mentioned and it just didn't stick out in my mind). It's an accessible book, and good if you want to maybe know a little more about Japan in a rounded sort of way, but you probably could get more of an insight from reading a Lonely Planet or Rough Guide.

Year's Best SF 13 edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer
I've been reading this anthology over the last few months; I've been renewing it for ages. It wasn't a bad anthology, but I have read much better. A few standout stories - I should have written down their names, but the two that spring to mind are about kids growing up too quickly, lingerie models at the age of ten; and one where holidaymakers get pressganged into military service through the application of a drug that negates a sense of self and personal identity, reducing a person to understanding the world in third person - can't quite make up for the rest that tend to underwhelm. The annual "Mammoth" books are much better; I think I'll be working my way through one of those over the next few months.

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
I was a bit indifferent to this book in the end; the thesis of the book is that there are areas where we can make almost instant judgements about situations and circumstances based on great background experience of an area or just common sense. In fact, by thinking about something for too long we can often derive the wrong opinion on something. I think that there were lots of good little stories and case studies about how we can use this kind of philosophy and ideas, but in the end I failed to see where the evidence to support this kind of thinking applies more generally. Interesting, but it didn't make that much of an impact in the end, although I'm still thinking about it I suppose. Maybe I'm thinking about it too much...

House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds
I've read all of Reynolds' previous novels, and this one didn't disappoint, even if it didn't reach the heights of some his previous brilliant novels. The central idea - a dynasty of 1000 clones touring the galaxy, six million years old, comes under attack - is done brilliantly. The whys and wherefores of how this happens take some time to go through, and then it seems like the second half of the book is rushed a bit, right up to the end. I kind of felt like it was going to lead up to something more than it did, but the sheer scale and scope of the ideas is mindblowing. Space opera is a genre I really like, and after reading this I think I'll be re-reading some of his other books as part of my re-reading. Oooh, and I'll re-read some Peter F. Hamilton too!

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